£7.8m announced to drive forward innovative ideas to transform railways

Posted on: 16/06/2019

The UK’s rail network is set to become more efficient, greener and cleaner thanks to new funding for innovative ideas


Drones capable of inspecting railway infrastructure, hydrogen train trials and a sound-bending wall to cut noise pollution are among 24 winning projects in the third round of the First of a Kind (FOAK) competition, unveiled by the Department for Transport (DfT).


KTN is heavily involved in the early stages of FOAK, delivering briefing events, reviewing proposals and signposting companies to collaborative partners, using its sector expertise to ensure the information about the opportunities reaches as many organisations as possible and to support those bidding in.

FOAK is run by Innovate UK and funded by the DfT and is designed to support research, development and innovation in the UK rail industry, seeking innovative ideas that can be adapted to transform rail travel.

Strengthening resilience of railway infrastructure and operations, enhancing rail freight services and reducing environmental and noise impacts were the themes for this latest round. Each of the winning schemes will receive between £250,000 and £350,000.

Among the successful projects is 4Silence’s plan to develop a noise-reducing wall that works by diffracting sound waves from passing trains upwards. This makes it as effective as a barrier three times its height.

Another scheme being supported is Amey VTOL’s development of a drone system that could carry out track inspections from the skies. This would avoid the need for people to set foot on railway infrastructure.

The University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research is also receiving funds for its plans to undertake the first mainline testing of a hydrogen-fuelled train in the UK.

The first round of First of a Kind was launched in 2017 and saw 10 projects win a share of £3.5 million to develop ideas to improve passenger experience and demonstrate tomorrow’s trains.

The second round focused on schemes aimed at cutting the carbon footprint on the UK’s railways and enhancing stations for passengers. This saw another 10 projects offered a share of £3.5 million.


The innovative solutions funded through this round have caught the imagination of the UK’s media, with articles being published in various nationals including The Guardian¬†and trade magazine such as Transport Network.


If you’d like to talk to KTN’s rail sector expert, you can contact Ian Stock, Knowledge Transfer Manager, Rail and Maritime.

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